NASA is not down with drones flying around town all willy-nilly and potentially electrocuting Kanye West's kid. The space agency is developing an air traffic control network near Moffat Field, California for unmanned aircrafts operating at 400 to 500 feet (120m to 150m), in an effort to curb reckless drone driving and put regulations in place.
As the New York Times points out, this would "in effect be a separate air traffic control system for things that fly low to the ground". Unlike a normal air traffic control room the drone traffic control will be fully automated.
It's a smart move. While Google and Amazon are investing big in the technology, commercial drone use remains illegal in the United States. And with reason: the idea of a robot delivering pizza is kooky, but both awesome and kind of elegant. Out-there, but potentially versatile. However, the idea of thousands of low-flying robots zipping around and crashing into each other is less cool.
If drones are ever going to be approved (and not a godawful surveilling nuisance), we need an infrastructure in place to regulate their use. NASA's plan is a solid step to helping drones turn into a mainstream tool. This is the kind of project that could help change the authority's mind. [New York Times via The Verge]